Baled Haylage for Sheep

Anita O’Brien, Sheep and Goat Specialist, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
(Previously published online as an OMAFRA publication: October 31, 2008)

Feeding haylage to sheep is less common than the feeding of dry hay rations. However, a number of producers have been feeding haylage to sheep in Ontario, causing more to consider it as a component of, or an alternative to their current feeding program.

This paper will be limited only to discussions on baled haylage, with limited references to conventionally stored haylage.

Why the Interest?
Baled haylage offers producers a greater flexibility in harvesting their winter feed supply, the potential for improved quality in feed, and less wastage from feeding. Baled haylage requires less drying time than conventional hay (50 to 60% versus 16 to 18% moisture), so that during poor drying conditions, quality feed can still be made. Because of the higher moisture content in baled haylage, there is Continue reading

Multi-Species Grazing as an Alternative to Pasture Spraying

James Doyle, Extension Natural Resource Management Field Specialist, South Dakota State University
(Previously published by South Dakota State University Extension: August 6, 2020)

(Image Source: Rocky Lemus, Progressive Forage)

Broadacre spraying of pastures is intended to reduce undesirable plants and increase grasses for livestock. This practice often results in unintended consequences including damage and reduction of native forbs and reduced profitability. One approach to managing perceived “weedy” plants that can offset those negative outcomes is incorporating different species of livestock into a grazing operation.

All species of livestock have different dietary preferences, and producers can harness this to help manage their plant communities in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner. Small ruminants, in particular sheep and goats, are the most common livestock species that are added alongside a cattle enterprise.

All species of livestock have different preferences when it comes to selecting the species of plants they consume, as demonstrated in the image above.

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Nutrition for Lambing

Shelby Filley, Oregon State University, Regional Livestock and Forage
(Previously published on the Oregon State University Extension page: April, 2018)

Do you have your ewes nutritionally prepared for lambing and lactation? If not, that’s okay! There is still plenty of time to get this important task accomplished. Learn to put a nutrition plan in place early in the season so you can decrease problems with your ewes later.

Two phases of the ewe’s biological cycle need special dietary consideration when it comes to lambing:

  • The first phase is the last four to six weeks of pregnancy, when 70% of fetal lamb growth occurs. In this late gestation period, ewes require significantly more dietary energy and protein than earlier in pregnancy. A good plane of nutrition here will help ensure that strong, healthy lambs are more easily delivered and have a good start in life. Ewes in poor nutritional condition are more susceptible to pregnancy toxemia, and may have weaker, lighter birth weight lambs to the point that lamb survival rate drops.
  • The second phase of the ewe’s biological cycle for nutritional consideration is during lactation, especially during the first six to eight weeks after lambing when milk production is high. This is the time when the ewe has the greatest nutrient requirements for energy and protein.

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Poisonous Pasture Weeds

Dwight Lingenfelter,

(Image Source: Poison Hemlock – Hay & Forage Grower)

As we transition into the fall, pastures will become less productive as temperatures decline. Be sure to scout your pasture fields for potentially dangerous weeds that your livestock may consider grazing on as other forages become limited.

Grazing animals will very rarely eat poisonous weeds if there are other options. However, the recent rain has been great for poisonous plant growth and the concern is heightened.

The wet weather has been great for pasture growth but is also good for poisonous plant growth. Grazing animals will very rarely eat poisonous weeds if there are other options. Keeping pastures growing rapidly and knowing which species to be most concerned about will help in minimizing the risk of poisonous pasture plants. Continue reading

Now is the Time to Plant Fall Cover Crops for Grazing

Kable Thurlow and Christina Curell, Michigan State University Extension
(Previously published online with MSU Extension – Cover Crops: August 27, 2019)

Cover crops can be a good option for grazing.

Last year, the wet weather during the spring left many fields unplanted. Those fields severed as a great place to seed an annual crop for fall grazing. Best forage yields are obtained when cover crops for fall grazing are planted July up to August 1st in Northern Michigan and August 15th in southern Michigan. After these dates, yield potential decreases as the remaining growing season vanishes. Therefore, we are at the point where they should be planted soon. [Luckily for us here in Ohio, we still have time remaining to get these crops into the ground before yield reducing weather sets it].

Annual cover crop mixtures can make very nutritious and economical grazing crops for spring, summer, fall and early winter grazing in Michigan. Fall grazing is especially beneficial Continue reading

Flushing Small Ruminants for a Higher Ovulation Rate

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: August 6, 2018)

(Image Source: Sheep 101.info)

Increasing the level of nutrition for does and ewes 2-3 weeks prior to and 3 weeks into the breeding season can improve kid/lamb crop in some instances.

When managing a goat/sheep herd farmers are always looking for ways to improve their herd, increase production and raise profitability. One way that a farmer can accomplish this is to implement flushing into their breeding practices. Flushing is a temporary but purposeful increase in the level of nutrition around breeding time. This is done to boost ovulation, conception and embryo implantation rates. Flushing may also increase the proportion of females that exhibit estrus. Flushing can increase lambing and kidding rates by 10-20 percent. This is important because a flock’s lambing/kidding rate is one of the primary factors influencing profitability. Flushing works best in

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3 Constituents Beyond Protein and RFV

Rebecca Kern, Animal Scientist, Ward Laboratories Inc.
(Previously published in Progressive Forage: August 4, 2020)

Often, I consult with livestock producers testing forage for their animals. Inevitably there are two numbers on the report they are most concerned with, protein and relative feed value (RFV). Protein is an important value to understand if the forage meets animal requirements, and RFV is a useful index to quickly compare or rank forages.

However, examination of directly measured constituents can help producers understand the characteristics of that forage as it pertains to feeding livestock. So, here are three other constituents to consider when evaluating a forage for livestock feed.

1. Acid detergent fiber (ADF)
This is the least digestible portion of the feed, made up of Continue reading

Nutritional Requirements of Sheep: Minerals and Vitamins

Dr. David G. Pugh, DVM, MS, MAg, DACT, DACVN, DACVM, Auburn University
(Previously published online with the Merck Manual – Veterinary Manual: January, 2014)

Minerals:
Sheep require the major minerals sodium, chlorine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, and trace minerals, including cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, and selenium. Trace mineralized salt provides an economical way to prevent deficiencies of sodium, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt, copper, iron, and zinc. Selenium should be included in rations, mineral mixtures, or other supplements in deficient areas. Sheep diets usually contain sufficient potassium, iron, magnesium, sulfur, and manganese. Of the trace minerals, iodine, cobalt, and copper status in ewes are best assessed via analysis of liver biopsy tissue. Zinc adequacy can be assessed from the careful collection of nonhemolyzed blood placed in trace element–free collection tubes. Selenium status is easily assessed by collection of whole, preferably heparinized, blood.

Salt:
In the USA, except on certain alkaline areas of the western range and along the seacoast, sheep should be provided with Continue reading

On-farm Benefits of using EID (Electronic Identification)

Victoria Agriculture
(Previously published online with Agriculture Victoria)

(Image Source: Shearwell)

Accurate identification of sheep
A Sheep Electronic Identification (EID) system uses an electronic ear tag or device, marking each animal with its own, individual identifying number. There are many potential flock and cost management benefits of EID for producers to utilize on the farm.

The EID tag or device contains a microchip that can be read electronically in a fraction of a second by producers who have a suitable reader (panel or handheld). With electronic reading, transcription errors can be eliminated saving both time and labor in the yards [and barns] whilst increasing the accuracy of your information.

Individual animal management
Within a flock there is a substantial variation in the characteristics that influence an animal’s production level. Identifying and Continue reading

Oats as a Late Summer Forage Crop

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County
Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Sandusky County
(Previously published in The Ohio Farmer: May 19, 2020)

Oats make an excellent double crop after wheat.

Oats is traditionally planted as the first crop in early April as a grain crop or an early season forage. One of the beauties of oats is its versatility in planting date. Oats can also be planted in the summer as an early fall forage for harvest or grazing.

Summer oats has a wide planting window but performs much better with an application of nitrogen and may benefit from a fungicide application to improve quality. During the summer of 2019 we conducted a study to examine the planting of oats from July 15th through early September to examine tonnage and forage quality. Through this trial we examined planting date, yield, forage quality and an application of foliar fungicide to control oats crown rust.

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Making Good Hay in a Bad Year

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist – Farm Progress
(Previously published in Missouri Ruralist: June 9, 2020)

Wrapping large round bales with higher moisture and plastic may help get hay off the field faster.

It seems as though rainy springs are becoming more of a haymaking tradition than an exception. Year in and year out, farmers fight to find the four or five consecutive days to let it dry, leaving some baling wet forage.

Tim Schnakenberg, University of Missouri Extension field specialist in agronomy, says the baleage harvest system is a good option for farmers because many of today’s round balers are designed to handle wetter forages, and they can be cost-effective.

“When we look at conventional silage systems,” he says, “we find that Continue reading

Grazing Summer Annuals

Brad Schick, University of Nebraska Extension
(Previously published Drovers Newsletter: June 26, 2018)

Grazing summer annual grasses can be a great addition to an operation when annuals are chosen correctly and grazing plans are used.

Grazing summer annual grasses is a great way to add flexibility to an operation, but in order to make it worth your time and money some management decisions are required. Your goals and your location will determine what type of summer annual you should plant. This article will address:

1. Type of annual and planting date
2. Timing of grazing
3. Prussic acid and nitrates Continue reading

ASI Feature: Proper Feeding of Ewes During Breeding and Pregnancy

As we prepare for the breeding season, it is important to consider the Body Condition Score of your flock as well as their nutritional needs before, during, and after breeding. Feeding for the breeding season doesn’t stop once the ewes are bred. It is important to provide gestating ewes with an optimum feeding regiment, whether that be in the form of grain, pasture, or a combination of both to ensure a successful breeding season.

Preparing the Flock for the Breeding Season

Dr. Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist – Sheep, Virginia Tech
(Previously published on the Virginia Cooperative Extension web page)

If you can believe it, we are already in the first week of June! The reality of breeding season is real for some of our breeders here in the state of Ohio. Others may be several months out, however, regardless of when you will begin the breeding season on your operation it is important to be prepared. Breeding season is more than just joining ewes and rams together, it takes months of preparation prior to this to ensure a successful season. Although this article has some age, it still remains to be a nice checklist on how to manage your rams and ewes prior to the breeding season.

Rams:
High temperatures can be detrimental to ram fertility, reducing pregnancy rates and lambing percentages. Heat stress occurs when the scrotum is not able to reduce the temperature of the testicles below normal body temperature. Although heat stressed rams may Continue reading

Silage – Part 1: Making More Sense Than Ever for Sheep Production

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: May 10, 2015)

(Image Source: Michigan State University)

A closer look at adding silage to your sheep feeding program.

Have you ever considered making and feeding silage? This is a common question Michigan State University Extension ask producers when reviewing their forage plans, so let’s take a closer look at silage feeding systems to help you consider if it could be a good fit for your farm. I have been feeding silage for about 15 years, and it is clear to me that my particular program would not work without silage as a centerpiece of my feeding program.

Note in the picture how the plastic is left on the bottom of the bale to retard spoilage in this simple feeding system. This high-quality forage was made from a predominantly grass pasture, harvested at the right time and carefully processed to insure quality. Baled silage is Continue reading

Opportunities Raising Feeder Lambs

Lyle A. Roe, Sheep and Lamb Marketing Assistant, Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association
(Previously published as a Extension white paper: University of Wisconsin)

As with any business, successful sheep operations routinely take time to inventory their resources and opportunities. This information can then be used to make changes (if warranted) in their operation to meet market demands. This may be done in a formal process but is more likely to be a continual process.

The sheep industry is changing. Sheep numbers in most of the United States are decreasing. Many flocks are being dissolved or decreased in size. This is especially true in the western states. One of the resulting effects has been a decrease in the availability of feeder lambs, making it harder for lamb feeders to purchase the number of feeder lambs they need.

This opens up the opportunity for sheep producers in Wisconsin to produce feeder lambs for sale to lamb feeders. Other factors making this possible are: Continue reading

Hay Making and the Balancing Act . . . Quality vs. Quantity!

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
(Previously published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Ohio Cattleman)

With age comes experience, and with experience eventually comes some of those things that you can only shake your head at. This is the time of year when I usually begin to hear one of my favorites, “I don’t like to get in hurry with that first cutting . . . we don’t want it rained on, and I like to let it grow a little longer so we get more. Besides, even if made a little late, it’s still got to be better than snowballs!

If nothing else, the last two springs have taught us this one thing. Not all first cutting forage is better than snowballs. In fact, the inability to make hay in a timely fashion has cost Midwest operators lots in terms of hay quality that’s resulted in loss of body condition, breed back issues, poor quality colostrum, and ultimately poor animal health and performance. If there was ever a time to carefully balance hay quality issues with the quantity of hay needed, weather permitting, this must be it! In fact, with some aggressive planning and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, perhaps we can have both quality and quantity this year. Following are Continue reading

Wet Years have Favored Weeds

Melissa Bravo, agronomic and livestock management consultant
Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: April 21, 2020)

Here we go again. Another mild winter of heave and thaw with little snow cover to protect the shallow roots and crowns of improved forage crops.

Without that snow barrier, species such as alfalfa and timothy — the most susceptible of our non-native forages — are subject to winter injury, which thins stands. This leaves less competition for weeds to establish and flourish.

Learning some skills to evaluate stand composition before you harvest first-cutting hay can add to profitability, but you must first be able to identify problem hayfield and pasture weeds.

During the dead of winter, most fields look uniformly brown. Then, as temperatures begin to warm, they look uniformly green. The problem is that sometimes “green” may consist of more than just desired forage species. Weeds can contribute to yield, but they also can Continue reading

What to Do About Mold in Feed

Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties
(Previously published online with Ohio Farmer: April 7, 2020)

Now that we are getting into the summer months, moldy feed might not be on your mind right now, especially if your livestock are grazing. But now is a great time to be cognizant of the conditions that lead to moldy feed in the winter months. The conditions that forages are grown and harvested in can determine the risk of mold developing later in storage.

First, let’s talk about what mold is. When we say something appears “moldy,” it usually has a dusty or fuzzy appearance or seems off-color. Maybe it produces a certain moldy odor. While many microbes might be referenced when we say mold, it is usually one group of microbes that is Continue reading

Grass Tetany Could be Looming for Cattle and Sheep

Dr. Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Perry County
(Previously published online with Farm and Dairy: February 11, 2016)

(Image Source: West et al., 2002 – Massey University)

Are your pastures ready for spring and your livestock ready for pasture?

As fast as this year seems to be going, pastures will be greening up and it will be time to start grazing again. Although we haven’t had much of a winter so far, and I hope I am not jinxing us by mentioning it here.

Spring arrives soon
Soon it will be time to start preparing our livestock for lush green pastures. Last year was a tough year for getting stored forages harvested, especially first cutting hay.

Supplement energy
Some hay analysis I have seen this past year would suggest that

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Establishing New Forage Stands

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2020-08)

Early spring provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. Two primary difficulties with spring plantings are finding a good window of opportunity when soils are dry enough. The outlook for this spring is for planting opportunities to be few and short. As planting is delayed, the risk increases because of more competition from weeds and summer heat when seedlings are small and vulnerable to drying out. An accompanying article on preparing for planting along with the following 10 steps will help improve your chances for successful forage establishment in the spring. Continue reading

Forage Species Selection and Alternatives for Ohio

With several of us on quarantine, you may have a bit more time on your hands to think about how you will renovate your pastures this year or perhaps work on that new hay seeding that you have been putting off for the past few years. Regardless of your situation, developing a comprehensive understanding of forage species is key for optimal forage establishment and on-farm utilization. Although this recording is a bit dated, it still contains a lot of useful information in terms of forage specie types and their uses. Enjoy!

Sheep Update: Creep Feeding Lambs

Dr. Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist – Sheep, Virginia Tech
(Previously published on the Virginia Cooperative Extension web page)

(Image Source: Ketcham’s Sheep Equipment)

Creep feeding young lambs while still nursing the ewe can provide valuable supplemental weight gain. This added weight gain has the most economic value for lambs managed in an intensive, early weaning production system where lambs will be maintained in a dry-lot. Conversely, for lambs that will be developed on pasture throughout the spring and summer, creep feeding would be of less value due to the relative expense of this early weight gain. Creep feeding also is beneficial for flocks with a high number of multiple births, or flocks with ewes having limited milk production.

Young lambs may be started on creep feed as early as 10 days of age. Although significant amounts of feed are normally not consumed until 3-4 weeks of age, providing access to creep feed at an early age allows lambs to develop a habit of eating dry feed, and helps Continue reading

Grass Cover Crops; Bargain Feed or Bedding?

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County and Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
(Previously published on Ohio Farmer: February 27, 2020)

(Image Source: NRCS-USDA)

With somewhere around 1.5 million acres that were not planted last spring to the intended crops of corn or soybeans due to the extraordinary weather, today, Ohio farmers likely have more acres of cereal rye planted for cover than at any time in previous history. At the same time, cattlemen and livestock owners are facing forage shortages that rival the drought of 2012. Adding insult to injury, the inventory of straw bedding is similarly very short, and will likely remain so until at least mid-summer.

With the opportunity for newly harvested forages still 2 or 3 months away, and straw even further out, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the opportunity for realizing either feed or bedding from cereal rye, or maybe even one of our other biennial grass crops. Continue reading

Benefits of Accelerated Sheep Production

Last week we highlighted the topic of rearing lambs artificially and how this may be more common than one may think in highly prolific and accelerated systems. This week we thought that it would be beneficial to introduce some of these accelerated lambing systems. Sponsored by the American Sheep Industry’s Let’s Grow program, Dr. Richard Ehrhardt with Michigan State University tours four accelerated flocks across the nation and discusses the benefits and challenges of these systems. Be sure to check this quick clip out!

Forage Focus: Fungal Growth in Stored Forages

In this months episode of Forage Focus, join host Christine Gelley and guest Erika Lyon as they discuss the topic of fungal growth, which can lead to animal health issues revolving around mold in stored forages. With this episode being approximately 50 minutes in length, we have provided an outline with specific time stamps below the video that can be used to find exactly what you may be looking for. Enjoy!

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Is Creep Feeding Lambs a Profitable Undertaking?

Donald G. Ely and Endre Fink, Animal and Food Sciences, University of Kentucky
(Previously published online as a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service white paper)

(Image Source: Premier1Supplies)

Creep feeding is a technique of providing feed to nursing lambs to supplement the milk they consume. Creep-fed lambs grow faster than noncreep-feds and are more aggressive in nursing ewes. This aggression stimulates greater ewe milk production which, in turn, increases creep feed intake because these lambs will be bigger at a given age.

Typically, the creep diet is a grain protein supplement mixture and is made available in an area constructed so lambs can enter, but ewes cannot. Some situations when it may be economical to creep feed are described below. Continue reading

Are Genetics the Key to Dealing with Fescue Toxicosis?

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

One of the sessions that I attended during the American Forage and Grassland Council at the beginning of 2020 explored the possibility of identifying genetic markers in cattle for tolerance of the endophytic fungus that lives within the KY-31 tall fescue forage, which is the most prominent pasture grass in our region. This endophyte provides survival benefits to the plant, but causes vascular constriction in the animals that can cause mild to severe symptoms and overall reduced productivity. For decades forage managers and scientists have been working on ways to mitigate the impacts of this endophyte on livestock production. Most successes have come from the forage management side rather than the livestock side. We suggest Continue reading

Management and Nutrition of the Lactating Ewe and Young Lambs

Dr. Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist – Sheep, Virginia Tech
(Previously published on the Virginia Cooperative Extension web page)

Nutrition:
In winter-lambing production systems, the flock is typically managed to provide rapid early growth of lambs for early marketing. Growth rate of lambs from birth to weaning is largely determined by milk production of the ewe, which emphasizes the importance of good nutritional management during this period. Lactation is also a period in which there is opportunity to control feed costs by feeding ewes according to the number of lambs nursing. During lactation, the ewe’s nutritional requirements for both energy and protein are at their highest level. Therefore, the highest quality hays available should be utilized during this time. Alfalfa hay is an excellent feedstuff during lactation due to its relatively high energy and protein density relative to other forages. In most cases, a grain-protein supplement (such as corn-soybean meal) will also need to be fed in addition to the highest quality hay available. The needed protein content of this grain mix will vary depending on Continue reading

Do Sheep Always Need Access to a Fluid Water Source?

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: December 16, 2016)

Knowing how much water grazing sheep need access to can help, especially during winter management.

Water is certainly an essential nutrient for life, and it is without question that all animals need water to survive and thrive. To be perfectly clear, I am not questioning whether or not sheep need water, but rather asking the question: When do sheep need supplemental, fluid water from a water source? This question has important implications for how sheep are managed, especially during winter.

The following conditions determine how much

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We Harvested a lot of Dirt this Year

Michaela King, Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: November 26, 2019)

(Image Source: Hay & Forage Grower)

This year’s forage analysis reports are showing more than the usual number of high-ash forages, according to Bill Weiss, Ohio State University Extension dairy nutrition specialist.

Typically, cool-season grasses harvested as hay or silage have about 7% – 9% ash, while legumes harvested as hay or silage average 10% – 12% ash. There are some outside factors that affect the mineral concentrations. As plants mature, the mineral concentration will decline, but forages grown in soils with high levels of available potassium often have higher mineral concentrations. Continue reading

Have your Hay, and Eat it, too

Emily Beal, College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences, The Ohio State University

Farmers across Ohio are feeling the brunt of last spring’s unprecedented rainfall. Finding hay that is both affordable and sufficiently nutritious has been one roadblock this year for farmers.

And something even more alarming than rising hay prices could be looming over Ohio farmers: A nutritional deficiency could be sneaking into their herd during this record-breaking year in agriculture.

Continue reading

Do Sheep Really Need Hay?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team
Dr. Ale Relling, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University
Clif Little
, OSU Extension Educator, Guernsey County

This question has been commonplace this year, especially with the inability of many producers to make hay at a reasonable time. However, this isn’t to say that there isn’t hay to be purchased, because there is, but rather that hay of acceptable quality at a reasonable price is nearly non-existent.

With this in mind, we challenge you to think about how generations before us fed low quality hay. It was simple right? Feed more of the lower quality material and allow the animals to choose which parts of the bale are the best. Then once they have eaten what they want, pitch the rest of it on the ground for bedding. This may be true, but what happens when we aren’t feeding enough of the ‘good stuff’? Continue reading

Feeding Baleage to Small Ruminants

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: October 16, 2019)

Baleage offers a low cost, high quality forage option for sheep and goats but care must be taken to reduce health risks.

Many small ruminant producers are looking for ways to reduce feed costs for their herd or flock. Hay prices in Michigan are high after the extremely wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer. As owners look to reduce their forage costs, baled silage or “baleage” is one possible choice, but there are several things to consider when evaluating this choice. Continue reading

Small Ruminant Winter Grazing Management

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

In our pasture for profit grazing schools, it is often said that mechanical harvest of stored forages is about three times more expensive as compared to livestock harvest of forage in a managed grazing system. From this perspective, winter grazing offers an opportunity to improve the bottom line of pasture-based livestock production. The keys to making winter grazing successful depend upon planning ahead to make forage available for grazing, know the nutrient content of forages grazed as well as the nutrient requirements of the grazing animal, and some cooperation from Mother Nature along the way.

In general, winter grazing involves using either Continue reading

Basic Nutrition of Small Ruminants

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture – Cooperative Extension Service
(Previously published on the U of A Division of Agriculture Research & Extension web page)

Feed is the single largest cost associated with raising small ruminants, typically accounting for 60% or more of total production costs. It goes without saying that nutrition exerts a very large influence on flock reproduction, milk production, and lamb and kid growth. Late-gestation and lactation are the most critical periods for ewe and doe nutrition, with lactation placing the highest nutritional demands on ewes/does. Nutrition level largely determines growth rate in lambs and kids. Lambs and kids with higher growth potential have higher nutritional needs, especially with regards to protein. Animals receiving inadequate diets are more prone to disease and will fail to reach their genetic potential.

Small ruminants require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. Energy (calories) is usually the most limiting nutrient, whereas protein is Continue reading

Feeding Sheep Whole or Processed Grains

Christoph Wand – Beef Cattle, Sheep and Goat Nutritionist/OMAF
(Previously published on Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)

What is the proper way to feed grain – whole or processed?. It depends on many factors such as the age (or weight) of the animal, the grain source and overall diet. Before getting to some usable rules of thumb, here is some background on why processing matters, and some general theory.

What is processing?
‘Processing’ means milling or rolling grain. It is also inferred by cracking, grinding, hammer-milling and so on. Generally, it can be assumed that processing adds about $10 per ton to the diet cost, due to labor, power use and machinery upkeep.

Sheep are ruminant animals; they are designed to Continue reading

Copper Deficiency in Sheep and Cattle

Government of Western Australia
(Previously published online: Agriculture and Food, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)

Yes, you read the title correctly. Contrary to common belief, sheep do have a requirement for copper. Although their requirement for supplemental copper may be lower than other ruminant species, excluding this mineral from the ration of a sheep diet can result in serious health issues.

Copper is an essential trace element for animals needed for body, bone and wool growth, pigmentation, healthy nerve fibers, and white blood cell function.

There are two main causes of copper deficiency in sheep

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Consider Byproduct Feeds for Rations this Winter

Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties
(Previously published online with Ohio Farmer: October 3, 2019)

Feeds produced from byproducts can often provide an adequate amount of protein and energy.

The last two years made it challenging for many producers to find good-quality feed for livestock, let alone a good quantity. Spoilage and high costs for subpar hay and grain can be discouraging. Health issues associated with poor-quality feed may range from starvation-like symptoms due to the feed lacking nutritional value, to death from contamination.

Producers may want to consider supplementing other types of feeds into winter rations to make up for loss in Continue reading

Hay Quality Indicators

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

The drastic swing in temperatures from one day to the next last week should remind us all that it truly is autumn and that winter is coming. The challenges of the 2019 forage production season continue to add up. With drought conditions across the state for the past two months, what was too lush for too long, is now crunchy and brown. Some producers are already feeding hay to their livestock, some are hoping that the forage they have stockpiled for late-fall/winter grazing will pay off. Hopefully it will with a little rain.

We ended 2018 with the lowest stock of stored forages since 2012 and the fourth lowest in the past 70 years. I don’t think 2019 has been much help. Quality forage is in short supply and high demand. Which means all forage has increased in monetary value by the ton. Continue reading

Can a Fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, Improve the Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Finished Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

In a continually changing society, today’s consumer is much different in the way they make purchasing decisions when compared to their parents, especially when it comes to the meat case. Go ahead, list some examples of the marketing strategies you have seen at your local and chain retail grocery stores. Labels such as organic, pasture raised, and no hormones added are just a few. As an example, I’m sure that many of you are familiar with Certified Angus Beef, but have you heard of their new line – Certified Angus Beef Brand Natural? Natural. A simple word that appeals and resonates with some many people. These beef products follow the same 10 specs that all beef must achieve in order to be marketed as Certified Angus Beef in addition to no antibiotics or added hormones. I understand the concept behind the label, consumers are looking for a wholesome, natural product that is raised in a manner in which we have reduced the use of antibiotics, thus decreasing the potential for the development of antibiotic resistance.

In the same breath, according to a 2017 USDA survey, approximately 12% of American households remain food insecure. This figure increases Continue reading

Multi-species Grazing can Improve Utilization of Pastures

Jodie Pennington, Small Ruminant Educator, Lincoln University, Newton County Extension Center
(Previously published on Extension – Goats, August 14, 2019)

Multi-species grazing is the practice of using two or more livestock species together or separately on the same pasture-land in a specific growing season. With an understanding of the different grazing behaviors of each species, various combinations of animals can be used to more efficiently utilize the forages in a pasture. Different species of livestock prefer different forages and graze them to different heights. Cattle tend to be intermediate grazers. They graze grasses and legumes and bite with their mouth and tongue. Sheep and horses graze closer to the ground than cattle. Sheep and goats eat forbs (brushy plants with a fleshy stem) and leaves better than cattle or horses. Many weeds in a grass pasture are forbs. Cattle and horses tend to graze grasses better than small ruminants such as sheep and goats. Continue reading

Weed and Brush Control: Myths and Mistakes

Scott Flynn, Field Scientist, Corteva Agriscience
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: May 21, 2019)

Weed and brush encroachment into pastures and hayfields can lower the ability to meet nutritional needs of most livestock operations. Over time, most producers eventually reduce animal numbers or supplement herds to compensate for forage loss. Meanwhile, a shortened grazing season and a need for more hay is realized as pastures decline. I often tell producers looking for more grazing acres that the cheapest pasture acres they will ever buy are the ones they gain when weeds and brush are controlled.

Most producers recognize the negative impacts of weeds on forage production and seek to control these invaders. However, Continue reading

How to Feed and Use Poor Quality Hay

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team
Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

Realities of hay produced in 2019:
Persistent and frequent rains not only led to delayed planting, but they also foiled the best-laid plans of sheep producers to take a timely first cut hay harvest. As a result, significant acres of first cut hay was baled in late June and even well into July. Overly mature is one way to describe this hay, but whatever the description, most producers recognize this hay is of poor quality. The big question many producers are facing now is how and when to best use this hay? Some have suggested the best use is bedding material. This is a valid consideration, particularly with high straw prices as hay has an absorbency factor (value used to describe the water holding capacity of a material) of 3.0, which is greater than that of wheat straw which sits at 2.1. It is important to note that the initial moisture content of these materials when tested was less than 10%. For those that Continue reading

Can Veggies Stand in for Poor Hay this Year?

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

Many of us have harvested hay way past its prime this year, the protein and energy is low, and the fiber is high. There is a way to balance the needs of our ruminants this fall by planting some veggies.

Turnips, rape, kale, rutabagas, and swedes are all examples of some veggies from the brassica family we can plant for livestock for feed this fall with turnips being the most common.

Many studies and producer experiences reinforce that brassicas are a viable option to extend the grazing season, and reduce stored feed costs. They tend to have good protein and energy, and are low in fiber (see how this can make for good feed supplemented with poor quality hay). Continue reading

For Sheep Producers, a Trace of Trace Minerals Worth a Pound of Cure

Whit Stewart, Extension Sheep Specialist, University of Wyoming
(Previously published in Barnyards & Backyards, July 2018)

As summer progresses and forage quality declines, we are quick to think of shortfalls in protein and energy in nutritional management yet tend to overlook micronutrients such as trace minerals. Even though these are required in relatively smaller quantities than protein and energy, they are essential for basic physiological functions and should be prioritized.

Essential macro minerals, including calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur make up major components of skeletal and nervous systems and are usually expressed as a percentage of the diet. In contrast, micro minerals, or trace minerals, are required Continue reading

Supplementation of Pasture-Raised Lambs Increases Animal Performance and Health

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

To capitalize on the niche market of grass-fed lamb products, have you ever considered placing a group of feeder lambs on pasture? The utilization of pastureland and the financial return from grass-fed products makes this type of production system profitable. However, grass-fed lamb production does not come without challenges. According to the USDA, in order for a product to be labeled as grass-fed, the animal must be fed solely forages, with the exclusion of its mother’s milk prior to weaning. From a production standpoint, this can be a difficult as research has shown that lambs finished on pasture take a longer period of time when compared to their counterparts fed grain. Lambs on pasture also face the challenge of parasitic infection. In an effort to decrease the effects of parasites and increase lamb body weight gain on pasture, producers may choose to supplement lambs while on pasture. However, supplementation of grain or grain by-products is not permitted by Continue reading

Planning Ahead: There is Still Time to produce Quality Feed for the Winter

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

We are starting to get an idea of how much stored feed we will have for the winter and in many circumstances, the quality will be low. Even if our livestock get plenty of hay this winter, the quality may be so low that the hay cannot meet their nutritional needs. There may need to be supplementation. We have a couple options: we can purchase supplements, utilize harvested crop residue, or we still grow some crops for fall and winter supplementation.

One product many producers buy is protein tubs. While the animals really like these products, it does not address their most pressing need: energy. The most commonly used product used to supply energy is corn. Adding some corn or Continue reading

Nutritional Flushing of Small Ruminants – Preparing for Fall Breeding

Washington State University Extension, Animal Agriculture
(Previously published on the WSU Extension Animal Agriculture page)

Introduction
Flushing isn’t just an aspect of indoor plumbing—it’s also part of a well-managed flock’s nutrition and reproduction program. This article will address the why’s and how’s of flushing sheep and goats.

Flushing Defined
What is flushing, anyway? The term describes a temporary but purposeful elevation in the plane of nutrition around breeding time. Its objective is to boost ovulation, conception, and embryo implantation rates. Flushing may also increase the proportion of females that exhibit estrus. Boosting these rates increases lambing and kidding rates by Continue reading

Diarrhea (Scours) in Small Ruminants

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

(Image Source: National Animal Disease Information Service)

Diarrhea is defined as an increased frequency, fluidity, or volume of fecal excretion. The feces may contain blood or mucous and be smelly. The color of the feces may be abnormal. However, it is not possible to definitively determine the infectious organism by looking at the color, consistency, or odor of the feces. A definitive identification requires a sample for microbiological analysis.

In livestock, diarrhea is called scours. There can be many causes of diarrhea: bacterial, viral, parasites, and diet. Continue reading

Forage Analysis: What Numbers Do I Need

Justin W. Waggoner, Kansas State University
(Previously published in The Stock Exchange News: May 30, 2019)

One the more common questions I receive with regard to analytical testing of forages and other feedstuffs is, “I have the sample, now what do I test for or what analysis package should I select?”

The basic components that nutritionists need to evaluate a feedstuff or develop a ration are dry matter or moisture, crude protein, an estimate of the energy content of the feedstuff — Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), Net Energy for Maintenance (NEm), Net Energy for gain (NEg), and the macro minerals, Calcium and Phosphorous. These are the most basic numbers that are required, but Continue reading

Feeding Long-fed Lambs: The Effect of Energy Source and Level, and Sex on Growth, Performance, and Carcass Characteristics of Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

If you recall from last week, Jaborek et al. (2017) investigated how feed source and amount of feed offered per feeding affected lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics. In that experiment, lambs were fed to live weights of 130 – 140 lbs. and were fed for approximately for 100 days. This system is representative of the Eastern US sheep production. However, this system does not apply to all producers. For those producers that decide to retain lambs for an extended period of time beyond this typical market size and condition, lets try to understand how the number of days on feed affects lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics summarizing a paper by Jaborek et al. (2018) that fed lambs for an additional length of time (218 days on feed total). Continue reading

Feeding Lambs: The Effect of Energy Source and Level, and Sex on Growth, Performance, and Carcass Characteristics of Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As the month of May comes to an end, there are two thoughts that come to mind. One, early born lambs raised indoors on grain are approaching market appropriate condition (live body weight and fat cover). Two, according to the Ethnic Holiday Calendar provided by the Maryland Small Ruminant program, Eid ul-Fitr (the Festival of Fasting Breaking for the Muslim faith) begins in two weeks. With this being said, shepherds with available lambs may consider selling their lambs in order to capitalize on the increased market value of lamb as a major ethnic holiday approaches just prior to the summer slump. However, marketing lambs towards this type of niche market can be challenging as some holiday dates continuously change from year to year. Although it is too late for this year to change your diets, feeding program, and management practices, it is important to consider what diet your lambs are being fed in order to achieve these marketing goals for the future. Therefore, in order to understand how sex, feed source, and amount of feed offered per feeding affects lamb growth, performance, and carcass characteristics, this week Jaborek et al. (2017) provides us with the data to do just that. Continue reading

Some Guidelines to Remember when Making and Feeding Haylage

John Cothren, County Extension Director and Extension Agent, Agriculture – Livestock and Field Crops, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Wilkes County Center
(Previously published on North Carolina Cooperative Extension: December 29, 2014)

(Image Source: Hoard’s Dairyman)

With the continued wet conditions we have been experiencing in Ohio, I find it appropriate to discuss how to harvest and manage our forages in different manners in order to maintain forage quality. This week, John Cothren dives into some important guidelines to remember when making and feeding fermented forages.

Silage makes an excellent feed for ruminant animals. However, feeding silage is much different than feeding hay. Silage, Continue reading

The Importance of Water and its Source

Callie Burnett, M.S. Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Clemson University
(Previously published in AGDAILY: March 29, 2019)

The importance of water as a factor in livestock production.

Although it’s “officially” spring according to the calendar, it may be a bit too early for me to extend my congratulations to you for making it through what many of us would call a rough winter. We’re close, but I certainly don’t want to jinx it. Depending on where you’re located, winter is still hanging around and with winter weather comes the not-so-joyous task of “breaking the ice,” literally. If you’re a herdsman or livestock producer, it’s very likely that you’ve had to spend a decent portion of your early mornings breaking ice in buckets, stock tanks, waterers, and the like. Sometimes, despite our greatest efforts, those things just aren’t able to stand up to the (sometimes below) freezing temperatures. Continue reading

Trace Mineral Deficiency

Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer, Agriculture Victoria, Wodonga
(Previously Published on Agriculture Victoria: Sheep Notes)

(Image Source: Jeff Cave – Sheep with Swayback)

Have you ever wondered whether your stock have a trace mineral deficiency?

Trace minerals such as copper, cobalt, selenium, and iodine are only required in small amounts but are still essential for optimal production, and for life. In contrast, macro-minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are required in larger amounts. Trace mineral deficiencies arise when the amount of the mineral in the food that is available for absorption by the animal through their gut is insufficient to meet their needs.

Growing animals have the highest demand for Continue reading

Scottish Sheep Production Through an American Lens

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For those of you that followed us on Facebook (OSU Sheep Team) last week, you may have noticed that our postings were a bit different than usual. Over spring break I had the great opportunity to help lead the study abroad trip, Scotland Ruminants. Over the course of our eight day trip, 36 undergraduate Animal Sciences students and 3 advisors toured Scotland’s countryside learning everything from veterinary school opportunities at the University of Glasgow to ruminant production systems in Scotland which included the sheep, goat, beef, dairy, and for our pseudo ruminant friends, alpacas along with much more!

If I were to talk about each part of the trip, you may be reading this for a while. So, with that, I’d like to take a few minutes to compare and contrast Scotland’s sheep industry to ours here in the States. While at the university of Glasgow, Continue reading

The Effects of Dietary Acidity and Sulfur on Feedlot Lamb Performance Fed Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Last week we featured the article “Benefits to Adding DDGS to Small Ruminant Diets” that outlined several research projects highlighting the benefits of adding dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) to sheep and goat diets. As bio-fuel production continues to be a viable industry, understanding how to efficiently and effectively utilize by-products from this industry will be key in livestock feeding profitability.

For those that took the time to view all the links provided in the text, you would have noticed that a couple of those projects were based here at The Ohio State University. Within the US Grains Council report, one summary in particular from Continue reading

Benefits of Adding DDGS to Small Ruminant Diets

Minnesota Bio-fuels Association
(Previously published on the Minnesota Bio-fuels Association webpage: March 1, 2017)

February was National Lamb Month! And we took this annual opportunity to highlight the benefits that DDGS continue to provide within the sheep industry.

A reminder that DDGS or (dried distillers grains with solubles) are a high protein animal feed and one of the co-products made during ethanol production. In Minnesota, every bushel of corn produces about 2.8 gallons of ethanol, 18 lbs. of DDGS and 1.5 lbs. of corn oil. In 2016, Minnesota produced 3.5 million tons of dried distiller’s grains.

The majority of the starch from corn is removed during the process of producing ethanol so the resulting DDGS co-product are a high-energy feed source of concentrated protein and high fiber. According to Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, DDGS contain 10 percent to 15 percent more energy than corn grain. Continue reading

Tube Feeding Small Ruminants

Dr. Susan Kerr, WSU NW Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist
(Previously published on Washington State University – Whatcom Ag Monthly page)

Tube Feeding Neonatal Small Ruminants: An Essential Skill for Sheep and Goat Farmers

(Image Source: Dr. Susan Kerr – Washington State University)

Introduction
Lambing and kidding are well under way. It is essential that sheep and goat producers learn how to tube feed young animals. This simple procedure can often save a young animal’s life, thereby increasing lambing and kidding crop rates and enhancing profitability. With a brief amount of instruction and a little practice, even children can perform this crucial task quickly, safely and effectively.

Indications
When is tube feeding necessary? Continue reading

Worm-Trapping Fungus

James E. Miller, DVM, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University
Joan M. Burke, Ph.D, Research Animal Scientist, USDA-ARS
(Previously published on American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control, January 2019)

(Image Source: duddingtonia.com)

Nematode-trapping fungi have demonstrated potential as a biological control agent against the immature (larval) stages of gastrointestinal nematodes (worms) in livestock feces under both experimental and natural conditions. These fungi are normal soil inhabitants throughout the world where they feed on a variety of non-parasitic soil worms.

Of the various fungi tested, Duddingtonia flagrans spores have been shown to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract of ruminants. After defecation, the spores Continue reading

Coccidiosis: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Control

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Coccidiosis: deadly scourge of lambs and kids

(Image Source: Susan Schoenian, Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease affecting a variety of animals, especially mammals and birds. The causative organism is a microscopic, spore-forming, single-cell protozoa called coccidia. Coccidia are from the same class of organisms (sporozoa) that cause malaria. Coccidia are sub-classified into many genera. In sheep and goats, coccidiosis is caused by the genus Eimeria [6].

Within this genus, there are more than Continue reading

Fact Sheet: Late Gestation/Early Lactation Ewe Nutrition

Dr. Reid Redden, Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Reviewed by: Dr. Dan Morrical, Sheep Extension Specialist, Iowa State University
(Previously published online as a Let’s Grow Fact Sheet)

Although it may be a bit late this year to change your ewe feeding and management programs, I still find it important to share as you observe your flock this year. Are your ewes in a good body condition score? If not, what could you have done differently to improve? Supported by the Let’s Grow program through the American Sheep Industry, Dr’s Reid Redden and Dan Morrical provide us with some helpful tips to keep our ewes in good shape to prepare for late gestation and early lactation.

Improper nutrition during the last month of gestation and early lactation can have devastating effects on lamb survival and productivity. Most of which occur when ewes are in a poor body-condition score (BCS) entering the last trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, ewe-feeding strategies to maintain productivity and survival of lambs starts well before this critical time period.

Late Gestation Facts: Continue reading

Practical Aspects of Improving Lamb Survival

Matthew Ipsen, Nuffield Scholar
(Previously published online on Making More from Sheep)

The reproductive performance of ewes is certainly an economically important trait in any commercial enterprise. Attention should be paid to the care of pregnant ewes and their lambs before, during and after birth.

Ensuring the nutritional demands of ewes during each stage of pregnancy, will result in the greatest “return on investment” in terms of maximizing the reproductive performance of sheep and in improving lamb survival.

Improving the nutrition of pregnant ewes will Continue reading

Effects of Dietary Fat in Lamb Feeding Diets

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

If you recall from an article published earlier this month, Dr. Relling and his lab investigated the effects of supplementing fat to gestating ewes. Dr. Relling’s lab compared the supplementation of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s – calcium salts of palm oil) to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s – eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids) on the performance of lambs who’s dam were fed these fatty acids. Through their experiments, Dr. Relling’s lab demonstrated that lambs reared from ewes supplemented with PUFA’s had greater weight gains and therefore a greater economical value when compared to lambs reared from ewes supplemented with MUFA’s.

In taking these points into consideration, producers may Continue reading

Cold Water, Cold Livestock

Heather Hamilton, editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup
Article compiled from Journal of Animal Science articles from K-State and the University of Missouri
(Previously published on the Wyoming Livestock Roundup)

Although Ohio and Wyoming weather conditions may differ, this weekends cold spell put shepherds to the test as lambs continued to hit the ground. Ensuring that our small ruminants have an ample supply of fresh water is on every producers check list, but monitoring water temperature may not be. Water temperature may play a bigger role than you thought before. To learn more, be sure to read on below!

It’s cold during Wyoming winters and producers utilize many production practices to reduce weather impacts on livestock. Providing warm water to livestock during cold months is an option that can increase water intake and reduce energy needs. Continue reading

Raising Lambs and Kids Artificially

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

(Image Source: Biotic Industries)

One of the outcomes of having a high lambing/kidding percentage (greater than 200%) is that you may end up with some lambs/kids that you have to raise artificially. While some ewes/does will be able to raise triplets (even quads), sometimes it may be necessary (or wise) to remove lambs/kids from large litters in order to obtain more satisfactory weight gains.

There are different opinions as to which offspring should be removed for artificial rearing. Traditionally, it was recommended that Continue reading

Can Restricting Feed Intake Benefit your Lamb Feeding Program?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

With lambing season upon us, many are concentrated on getting lambs on the ground and getting them off to a good start. Although this is an extremely important step in the continual management of your flock, we must also be thinking one-step ahead. By this I mean, what will be your feeding strategy after your lambs are weaned a few months from now. Some producers may decide to sell their lambs as feeders directly after weaning, but for those that decide to retain their lambs and feed them out, how will your lambs be fed? What will your diet be composed of and will you be providing the diet at ad-libitum or at a restricted intake? Thinking about this, have you ever considered how the feeding strategy you choose could affect the feed efficiency and performance of your growing lambs? If you haven’t, no worries. Thankfully, Murphy and others (1994) did just this to Continue reading

Feeding Fat to Pregnant Ewes

Dr. Ale Relling, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Should we feed fats to pregnant ewes?

This question is being posed in order to summarize what was presented on December 1, 2018 at the Buckeye Shepherd’s Symposium on feeding fats to pregnant ewes. Before I enter into the details of the results and economic implications, I would like to clarify two things. First, we must consider ruminant physiology and applicability, noting that the sources of fats/lipids used are commercially available products. Second, the goal of all studies were not to improve or change ewe physiology, but to evaluate the effect of feeding fats during gestation and the impact that they had on the offspring. Continue reading

Winter Feeding of Small Ruminants

Dr. Chelsey Ahrens, Specialty Livestock/Youth Education Specialist, Arkansas Extension
(Previously published as a fact sheet with the Division of Agriculture, Research & Extension, University of Arkansas)

Winter Feeding of Sheep and Goats: General Rules of Thumb for Gestating and Lactating Females

Knowing the nutritional requirements of females during the various stages of production allows producers to ensure females are performing at optimal levels. Since females are typically in late gestation and/or lactating during the winter months, when their nutritional needs are the highest, it is even more important to ensure the females are obtaining the proper roughages and/or grains in their diets. Below are Continue reading

Keeping Newborn Lambs Fed and Warm

Jeff Held, South Dakota State University Sheep Extension Specialist
(Previously published on iGrow, a service of SDSU Extension)

Newborn Lamb Care Management.

Proper newborn lamb care is a critical component of flock profitability. In the U.S., lamb mortality from all causes is approximately 20% with more than 80% of those losses occurring in the first two-weeks following lambing. Yet a solid lamb care management plan coupled with a few key tools in the lambing barn can sharply improve the number of lambs reared per-ewe. Generally, the top causes for newborn lamb losses are starvation, hypothermia (cold stress), respiratory disease, and scours followed by injury. Theoretically, these categories each stand alone, however the reality is often two-or-three of these occur simultaneously. Producers that develop a lambing time-management plan to incorporate appropriate lambing tools and gain key skills on newborn lamb care will benefit from less labor input and expense with a greater number of lambs weaned. Continue reading

Colostrum is Key

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: February 12,2013)

(Image Source: Premier1Supplies)

Colostrum is the key to raising healthy goat kids and lambs.

Ensuring goat kids and lambs get enough colostrum at birth is imperative to getting them off to a good start.

One of the most important functions of colostrum (first milk) is to provide kids and lambs with antibodies (immunoglobulins) that provide passive immunity for the first two months of life. Newborn lambs and kids, like other mammals, are born with no antibodies of their own and rely on those provided by the mother in colostrum for protection.

Protection provided by Continue reading

Creep Feeding Primer

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

(Image Source: Susan Schoenian, Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Creep feeding is a means of providing supplemental nutrition to nursing lambs and kids. It is accomplished by giving lambs and kids access to extra feed or better pasture, while excluding their dams.

Lambs and kids that are born in the winter months are often creep fed, since pasture is usually not readily available. Show animals are typically creep fed, in order to get them bigger for show.

Creep feeding is recommended for accelerated lambing and kidding programs, in flocks and herds where there are a lot of multiple births, and anytime milk production is a limiting factor. Artificially-reared lambs and kids should be creep fed to facilitate early weaning. Creep feeding is also advisable when Continue reading

Listeriosis Control and Prevention

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: November 28,2018)

Listeriosis is a disease that can affect all ruminants, as well as other animal species and humans.

Listeriosis is an important infectious disease of sheep and goats. It most commonly causes encephalitis but is also capable of causing blood infections and abortion.

Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes and is commonly seen in cooler climates. These bacteria can be found in the soil, food sources and even the feces of healthy animals. Most commonly, this disease of sheep and goats is observed as a result of feeding moldy or spoiled hay or silage. It’s possible for sheep and goats to become infected without feeding moldy or spoiled hay or silage, as it is also found in the environment. The bacteria are very hardy and are common in soil.

Possible locations of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria: Continue reading

Pregnancy Toxemia (a.k.a. Ketosis)

Dr. Susan Kerr, WSU NW Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist
(Previously published on Oregon State University Small Farms page)

Pregnancy Ketosis

New producers of small ruminants often learn about pregnancy ketosis first time the hard way—with a dead dam, fetuses or both. This article explains the causes of pregnancy ketosis (a.k.a. toxemia) and more importantly—how to prevent it.

This ewe had milk fever, but advanced pregnancy ketosis would present similarly: a down and depressed animal with poor appetite. Lack of complete recovery after calcium treatment and results of ketone tests would help differentiate these two conditions. Also, milk fever usually occurs after lambing and pregnancy ketosis before. Photo courtesy Susan Schoenian, University of Maryland Extension.

(Image Source: Oregon State University Small Farms page)

Sheep and goat fetuses add 70% of their final birth weight in the last six to eight weeks of gestation. A singleton increases a dam’s nutritional requirements by 1.5 to 2 times maintenance in the last trimester. Multiple fetuses greatly increase energy demands on their mother: twins require 1.75 to 2.5 times maintenance requirements and triplets demand up to 3 times maintenance. Twins and triplets are common in some breeds of sheep and goats; quadruplets and even more are not uncommon in Boer goats, Finnsheep and Romanov sheep. Continue reading

Hay Buying Help and Preparation for Next Year

Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Henry County

With last week’s rain showers leaving much of the area saturated, there were limited opportunities for farming or even yardwork. I took advantage of the soggy conditions here in NW Ohio and headed south on Friday to a fairly productive couple of days in Morgan County. We had a good chance to winterize and store all of the hay equipment and tractors that we typically don’t use during winter time.

Regarding hay implement storage, we make an effort blow off the chaff, seeds, and dust with a leaf blower shortly after use and then pressure wash the piece prior to pulling in to the machinery shed for the down season. Once everything is cleaned off, each machine is greased and gear boxes are checked for fluid levels. Any major repairs or maintenance such as Continue reading

Grazing Damaged Corn and Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Southeast Regional Director

Pulling this article from our achieves this week, it seems to be extremely timely and beneficial as mother nature has made it challenging to harvest crops this fall in a timely manner. As we progress later into the harvest season, stalk quality will decrease which could lead to more down corn in our fields. From a cropping standpoint, this is an issue as some of the downed crop may not be salvageable. Luckily not all is lost if we are able to incorporate a strategic grazing plan.

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn and corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading

Ewe Management Tips: Mid and Late Gestation

Dr. Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist – Sheep,Virginia Tech.
(Previously published on the Virginia Cooperative Extension web page)

Some important topics to consider with the beginning of lambing season just around the corner.

Proper management and nutrition of the ewe flock during mid and early lactation are critical for optimizing flock productivity and profitability. Balanced nutrition, coupled with proper management during gestation is important for fetal development, lamb vigor and survival at birth. Additionally, proper nutrition during gestation is important to prevent nutritional disorders which may impact the health and performance of the ewe and her lambs, and influences milk production of the ewe.

There are several factors that affect the nutritional needs of the ewe during gestation, with primary considerations for: Continue reading

Livestock Winter Hay Needs

Dr. Susan Kerr, Washington State University, Northwest Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist
(Previously published on the Oregon State University Small Farms Page)

Livestock producers can often realize feed cost savings by purchasing their entire winter hay supply at one time. Obtaining an entire feeding season supply from a new hay crop certainly beats underestimating needs and having to cobble together purchases of more hay in late winter, when demand may outstrip supply and quality may be variable. There are four critical aspects of large hay purchases: knowledge of how much to purchase, adequate storage capacity, ability to work with the hay producer’s schedule and capital to make the purchase.

A few simple calculations can help livestock producers estimate how much hay they will need to get them through the winter. Estimates are based on Continue reading

Ewe Winter Feeding Systems, the Long Term Effects on Lamb Performance

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As we approach the winter months, I find it timely to discuss what types of feedstuffs are available to feed gestating ewes. Last fall I published a summary from Radunz and others (2011) that covered the effects of winter feeding systems on ewe performance which can be found by clicking this link. For those not able to access the link, three different diets were fed to gestating ewes during the last 90 days of gestation which consisted of either forage (haylage), grain (limit fed corn), or by-products (limit fed dried distillers grains). After birth, all ewes were fed the same lactation diet.

From an economic perspective, feeding by-products proved to be roughly $0.01/head/day cheaper than Continue reading

White Muscle Disease in Small Ruminants

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

White muscle disease in sheep and goats.

(Image Source: Susan Schoenian – Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Stiff lamb disease – nutritional muscular dystrophy.

What is it?
White muscle disease (WMD) is a degenerative muscle disease found in all large animals. WMD is caused by a deficiency of selenium and/or vitamin E. Generally, it is not known which. Selenium (Se) deficiency is associated with selenium deficient soils and the inadequate uptake of selenium by forages grown on these soils. Certain areas of the U.S., including the Northeast, are considered low in selenium levels. Selenium deficiency occurs when the soil contains less than 0.5 mg Se/kg of soil and locally harvested feeds contain less than 0.1 mg Se/kg of feed. Continue reading

Feeding Strategies to Increase Lamb Performance, Carcass Characteristics, and Consumer Acceptability

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For most producers, maintaining high standards
of animal welfare and increasing production efficiencies rank among the most important factors involved in livestock production. While focusing on production efficiencies, what can producers do in order to help make their livestock more efficient? We know that excess fat on the carcass of an animal is considered inefficient as excess fat will be trimmed off, disposed of during the fabrication process, and does not contribute to final lean yield. In the case of lamb, excess fat can be a challenge as fat is associated with flavor and in turn the overall acceptability of the product. In order to produce a product that is acceptable for consumers from both a flavor and palatability standpoint, producers have access to different management strategies that can be implemented in order to change the performance and carcass characteristics of fed lambs. In order to determine Continue reading

Chronic Copper Poisoning in Sheep

Dr. S. John Martin, Veterinary Scientist, Sheep, Goat, and Swine
(Previously published on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs web page)

How does chronic copper poisoning (CCP) occur?
Sheep are the domestic animal most prone to CCP. They absorb copper from the diet in proportion to the amount of copper offered, not to the body’s need as with the absorption of other minerals. Any excess absorbed copper is stored in the cells of the liver, eventually reaching toxic levels. Levels in the liver above 500 ppm dry weight are usually considered toxic. This storage in the liver can take months or even years to reach a toxic level. The elimination of copper from the body through the kidneys is slow.

Even then, it needs a stress to release the copper. This stress can be weather, poor nutrition, transportation or handling. The liver cells rupture, releasing copper into the blood stream. There are suggestions that excess liver copper can Continue reading

Are Your Sheep Consuming Enough Calcium?

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(Previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

(Image Source: Ketcham’s Sheep Equipment)

Minerals are essential to support skeletal and nervous system functions. But, have you balanced your current mineral program lately with the forages and other feeds that your sheep are consuming?Top of Form

Most forages and a good quality mineral mix meet nutritional requirements of mature ewes. But, ewes will need additional mineral supplements, particularly during the last third of gestation.

The only way to truly evaluate a mineral program is to start with testing forages and other feeds consumed by the sheep. Assess nutrient levels using Continue reading

PEM or “Polio” in Small Ruminants

Richard Ehrhardt, Small Ruminant Extension Specialist, Michigan State University
(Previously published on the Michigan State University Sheep and Goat Extension Page)

(Image Sourece: MSU Extension, Sheep and Goats)

Understanding how to prevent and treat Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) in sheep and goats.

Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) is also known as cerebrocortical necrosis (CCN) and is a relatively common nutritional disorder in sheep and goats. A common name for this disease in sheep and goats is “polio”; however, it has absolutely no relationship with the infectious viral disease found in humans (poliomyelitis). Cases of PEM can be successfully treated if detected early in the disease course, making recognition of early symptoms a critical issue for sheep and goat producers.

Causes of PEM
The most common cause of PEM is Continue reading

To Breed or Not to Breed

Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Small Ruminant Extension Program
(Previously published on the Maryland Small Ruminant Page)

Breeding ewe lambs and doelings.

Should ewe lambs and doelings be bred to produce their first offspring when they are approximately one year of age? Or should you wait until they are yearlings to breed them for the first time? The answer depends. There are many factors to consider and there are pros and cons to each breeding decision.

Breeding ewe lambs and doe kids allows you to exploit their reproductive and genetic potential. It is well-documented that ewes that are mated as lambs will have a higher lifetime production than ewes that are mated for the first time as yearlings.

One of the most compelling reasons to consider breeding ewe lambs and doe kids is Continue reading

An Alternative Use for Wool

Tim Lundeen, Feedstuffs editor
(Previously published in Feedstuffs, Nutrition and Health: August 17, 2018)

Wool may offer dietary protein source.

Wool protein hydrolysates offer promise as functional ingredient in pet foods as well as other foods and feeds.

Developing new products from available resources often requires scientists to think differently, and such new products can offer new revenue streams for animal agriculture sectors.

Researchers with New Zealand’s AgResearch have discovered that proteins from wool can be added to the diets of animals to improve their health, opening up a new market for the sheep industry. Continue reading

Adding Distillers Grain and Soy Hulls to Sheep Diets

Jeff Held, SDSU Sheep Extension Specialists
(Previously published as an Extension Extra: South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service)

Feeding Soy Hulls and Dried Distillers Grain with Solubles to Sheep

Co-products from corn and soybean processing industries can be excellent sources of nutrients for livestock. With the growth of ethanol production from corn and increasing number of soybeans processed in the Upper Midwest, livestock producers have many nutrient-dense co-product feed resources readily available. In the Upper Midwest distillers dried grain with solubles (DDGS) derived from ethanol production and soybean hulls (SH) from soybean processing have created the greatest interest to sheep producers.

Interestingly these co-products are both high fiber-low starch in content, much like forages. Yet DDGS is classified as a protein feed and SH could be classified as an energy feedstuff.

As often found with co-product feed ingredients, these have unique nutrient profiles and physical characteristics that require attention when formulating diets. They often can serve multiple roles in diet formulation: Continue reading

Using Hay to Meet Sheep Nutritional Needs

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County
(Previously published in: A Guide to Katahdin Hair Sheep)

Sheep are ruminants, so outside of a feedlot situation the majority, if not all, of their nutrient requirements should be met from forages. For most sheep owners, this means that hay is an important component of the ration through at least the winter months and possibly even longer, including times of pasture shortages due to drought or poor forage stands. There are two critical questions to answer when using hay to meet sheep nutritional needs:

  • What is the nutrient content and quality of the hay?
  • What are the nutrient requirements of the sheep?

The number one factor affecting the quality and nutrient content of hay is Continue reading

Mycotoxin Concerns when Feeding Small Ruminants

Michael Neary, Extension Small Ruminant Specialist, Purdue University
(Previously Published as a Sheep and Meat Goat Extension Publication)

Identifying Corn Ear Rots (Image Source: No-Till Farmer)

Introduction
During the 2009 Indiana corn harvest, livestock producers heard numerous reports of mycotoxin levels high enough to cause concern. The main mycotoxins in feed grains that sheep and meat goat producers need to be concerned with are deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN). Deoxynivalenol is also known as vomitoxin. Zearalenone arises from Gibberrella ear rot, or Gib ear rot. Both of these mycotoxins are produced by a Fusarium fungus. There is a limited amount of research and extension information available on the effect of sheep performance when consuming feeds infected with DON and ZEN. There is less information for Continue reading

Top 7 Factors for Quality Hay

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 26, 2018)

One of the many things that David Letterman gets remembered for is his Top 10 lists.

These lists included such things as the Top 10 Signs Your Kid Had a Bad First Day at School, the Top 10 Numbers Between One and 10, and the Top 10 Dog Excuses for Losing the Dog Show (No. 3 – Didn’t know that was the judge’s leg).

Lists, especially those that are ranked, are great for generating a plethora of discussion and arguments — just ask two passionate baseball fans to list the top 10 players during the past 50 years. It’s likely both will end their day in an emergency room.

Agree or not, lists do invoke thought and reflection.

With that in mind, here’s Dennis Hancock’s “Top 7 Factors that Affect Hay Forage Quality.” The University of Georgia Extension forage specialist enumerated the list during a recent Alabama Forage Focus webinar. The factors are listed in order of perceived importance. Continue reading

Ag-note: Why Ewe Should Control Feed Intake

Carolina Fernandez, Dermot Hutchinson, Randi Shaw, Jake Parkinson, Caitlyn McCaulley, OSU Animal Science Undergraduate Students
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Why Ewe Should Control Feed Intake
** Follow the link above to view the Ag-note.

This weeks Ag-note comes from OSU students Carolina Fernandez, Dermot Hutchinson, Randi Shaw, Jake Parkinson, and Caitlyn McCaulley as they present a detailed overview on the importance of controlled feed intake in small ruminants. The students were inspired by Dr. Francis Fluharty to present on this topic as Dr. Fluharty expressed that this type of feeding strategy is not just limited to feedlot cattle. Although controlling feed intake comes with a cost due to an increase in labor and time spent feeding, the benefits from this strategy certainly outweigh these costs.

At a basic level, producers have two options when it comes to feeding strategies, Continue reading

Energy Intake and Protein Concentration Effects Lamb Performance and Visceral Organ Mass

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As summer approaches, I can’t help but to think about the upcoming breeding sheep show season, when will Mother Nature let us to make our first cutting of hay in southeastern Ohio, and the number of lambs that are on feed in the state of Ohio. For those producers that are feeding out lambs, I have a few management questions to ask. Currently, how are you feeding your lambs? Are your lamb’s offered ad libitum access to feed all day or are you feeding your group of lambs at a specific rate (i.e. percent of body weight)? When formulating your rations, how are you determining the percent protein needed in your lamb diets? Are you feeding Continue reading

The Effects of Finishing Diet and Weight on Lamb Performance, Carcass Characteristics, and Flavor

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The beauty of the small ruminant industry is that producers are able to capitalize on niche markets that surround religious holidays. Unfortunately, it is clear that the price of lambs at the sale barn has dropped as seen in recent market reports, with the conclusion of Christian and Orthodox Easter’s as well as Passover. Checking the calendar, it appears that we are approaching both Ramadan (month of fasting beginning May 6) and Eid al-Fitr (June 5-7). The occurrence of these religious holidays may allow for the lamb market to see an increase in market prices, but many fall and winter born lambs in the eastern US will also be entering the market as they approach finishing weights and in turn may flood the market. Therefore, as a producer, it is important to have a marketing plan in mind when making breeding decisions for proper lambing dates.

Aside from religious holidays, lamb Continue reading

With Sheep, The Cheapest Mineral Isn’t

Dr. Francis Fluharty, Research Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

Regardless of the animals stage of production or time of year, Dr. Fluharty reminds us that mineral supplementation is important! Although mineral

(Image Source: Back Yard Herds)

can be quite costly initially, Dr. Fluharty outlines the risks and production losses associated with the lack of mineral supplementation.

The major nutritional requirements are: water, energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In many cases, sheep producers do a good job of providing adequate water, energy, and protein. However, many sheep producers buy ‘cheap’ minerals, ignoring the fact that the availability of the minerals in the oxide form is low. In many of these mixes, only 10-20% are Continue reading

How Often Should You Cut Alfalfa?

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University

Most dairy producers are fairly aggressive with alfalfa cutting schedules. Their goal is to achieve high-quality forage.

But cutting too frequently usually shortens the life of alfalfa and often gives lower yields, even when more cuttings are taken per growing season.

Recent results from a two-year study at the Western Agricultural Research Center of The Ohio State University demonstrate the yield and quality trade-off. Continue reading

Management Practices that can Affect the Flavor Intensity of Lamb

Jerad Jaborek, Graduate Research Associate, The Ohio State University

Now is the time of year when the majority of winter lambs are being weaned. After weaning, these lambs will be sold at the sale barn

or retained on the farm to be placed on feed to reach market ready weights. Have you ever considered that the way we manage these lambs will affect the flavor intensity of the sheep meat produced from these lambs?

According to 2015 National Lamb Quality Audit, which conducted surveys with people working in the lamb supply chain (retailers, food service, and purveyors) to rank the importance of quality attributes. Eating satisfaction was the most important attribute to survey participants and was commonly defined as the Continue reading

Turning the Forage World Upside Down – Condensed Tannins and Small Ruminants

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: March 20, 2018)

Well, someday it will.

(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)

In the February issue of Hay & Forage Grower, I shared a story about Reed Edwards, a South Carolina farmer who had been growing sericea lespedeza hay for about 10 years.

Edwards sold his hay about as fast as he could make it, mostly to customers with Boar show goats or dairy goats.

Why goats? Continue reading

Pasture: Evaluation and Management of Existing Pasture

Bob Hendershot, Retired State Grassland Conservationist

As we begin to move into spring, we need to start thinking about spring forage growth and how we will be managing our pastures over the course of the new year.

Pasture management is very important for grazing animals; cattle, horse, llama, and sheep owners. By managing pastures more effectively, land managers can increase forage production, lower production costs, improve aesthetics, and promote a healthier environment. The benefits of a well-managed pasture include reducing environmental impacts of your operation, including movement of soil and manure to water bodies; improving property aesthetics, which makes for good neighbor relations, and increases property value; and providing feed and recreation for your horses. Using a rotational grazing system can enhance these benefits.

For optimal health, horses and llamas need to eat 1 to 1.5% and cattle and sheep Continue reading

Hypothermic Lambs: How to Defrost before They’re in the Freezer

Jackie Lee and Kathrine Yunker, 2019 College of Veterinary Medicine DVM Candidates, The Ohio State University
(previously published on Talking Sheep – Sheep Education and Information: February 19, 2018)

Although mother nature can not make up her mind when it comes to the weather, this piece of information still serves a great purpose as it reminds us about the issues that can arise as a result of hypothermia and hypoglycemia as well as the management practices that can be implemented in order to decrease the losses associated with both of these issues.

Winter has already been harsh this year, making it only fitting to write about hypothermia in lambs. Even with the best management, this is bound to be an issue for many sheep producers. Hypothermia has many causes and can affect lambs at different ages. In newborn lambs less than five hours old, hypothermia often occurs due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.

Difficult or premature births can Continue reading

Livestock Water is Essential, Even in Winter

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Perry County

(Image Source: Catskill Merino Sheep)

Water is essential for all livestock regardless of the time of year. So far this year we have certainly had our share of chopping ice, thawing water lines and troughs. With recent temperatures many of us often focus on keeping livestock well fed and with adequate shelter. However, often times we forget about the most important nutrient which is water. Water consumed by livestock is required for a variety of physiological functions. Some of these include proper digestion, nutrient transportation, enzymatic and chemical reactions, and regulation of body temperature.

Although water is the cheapest nutrient we may purchase or provide, it is the one we provide the most of on a per pound basis. For example, every pound of dry matter consumed, Continue reading

Graze on Cool-Season Annuals – Thoughts for your 2018 Grazing Year

Curt Arens, Farm Progress field editor
(previously published in Nebraska Farmer: February 7, 2018)

Oats, barley, triticale, and spring wheat all make for good grazing and hay crops when they are spring-seeded.

For a seed cost of between $25 and $31 per acre, livestock producers can gain valuable grazing days or hay by planting cool-season annuals in the spring or fall. All kinds of annuals can be planted in the spring, according to Nebraska Extension educator emeritus, Dennis Bauer.

Speaking at a Beef Profit Tips meeting in Center, Neb., recently, Bauer said oats, spring triticale, spring beardless barley, Italian or annual ryegrass, field peas, and other legumes all make good grazing or hay options.

Continue reading

Management Considerations to Lower Lamb Mortalities

Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

Once again, we have dug back into the achieves to provide an article by Dr. Bill Shulaw that outlines management strategies that can be implemented in order to decrease lamb losses associated with improper management and disease control that may be prevalent during the first few weeks of life. Whether you have raised sheep for a year or 50 years, reviewing this article would benefit all shepherds as it outlines simple control and management strategies that can certainly benefit any operation.

There are many factors that affect lamb survival. Serious shepherds should consult the Sheep Production Handbook, produced by the American Sheep Industry Association (www.sheepusa.org), for a more complete discussion of the various conditions and infectious diseases which impact lamb survival. However, Continue reading

Do Sheep and Goats get Cold?

Erika Lyon, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Jefferson and Harrison Counties

(Image Source: Our Ohio Magazine, Ohio Farm Bureau – Meating of the Minds)

During this time of year, the hills of eastern Ohio are covered in snow, frozen waterfalls, and massive icicles. Most of us enjoy spending these cold winter days indoors next to the fireplace or with the furnace working overtime. So with their thick wool coats, are sheep actually keeping as warm as you think? What about goats that do not have those nice thick coats? Are they just used to the cold? During the winter, extreme temperatures, precipitation and wind can create Continue reading

How can Delayed Weaning Benefit your Operation?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

At what age do you wean your lambs? This is a question that I have asked producers many times. I have heard ages ranging from 35-130 days of age with the most common answer being 60 days of age. This is the most common weaning age for producers in the eastern United States. When I ask producers why they wean their lambs at 60 days of age or younger, most respond with “that’s the way we have always done it here on the farm, so why change now?”

From a researcher’s perspective, this is not a valid answer. Weaning before the natural weaning age (between 100-180 days of age depending upon sheep breed) is stressful. Weaning stress can lead to decreases in animal performance as demonstrated by decreased weight gain. Weaning stress can also result in decreased animal health as shown by decreases in immune system function that can lead to an increased susceptibility to disease and infection. However, if we were Continue reading

What Accounts for Variability in Grain Protein Levels in Corn?

Alexander Lindsey, OSU Assistant Professor, Horticulture and Crop Science
Stan Smith, OSU Extension Program Assistant, Fairfield County
Peter Thomison, OSU Extension, Corn Specialist
(previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2018-01)

(Image Source: C.O.R.N. Newsletter)

We’ve recently heard comments and questions concerning the varying levels of grain protein levels being found in shelled corn. Some feed companies have reported seeing many samples in the upper 6% and lower 7% protein range this year but there are reports of levels that are nearly 9%. Some feed mill operations are using 7% as the default value based on this year and last year’s levels. However, in the past, higher grain protein levels (% +2) have been cited for corn. Are the reports of low levels in 2016 and 2017 an anomaly? What could be accounting for these varying protein levels in corn?

Environmental conditions (esp. those affecting soil moisture), cultural practices (nitrogen fertilization, plant population, drainage) and hybrids genetics all influence grain protein. Production factors and favorable growing conditions that Continue reading

Hay Testing for Efficient Winter Feeding

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator, Noble County

As the new year begins, most Ohio graziers are probably feeding a good portion of hay as a part of their animals’ daily ration. Even if there is a supply of stockpiled forage available, we tend to make hay available just in case they need a little extra. It is likely that grain is also part of that daily ration. Well, how do you know how much hay, grain, and pasture they need? No one wants to leave their animals hungry. In addition, we do not want to waste time or money with unnecessary feeding. Figuring out the balance can seem like a guessing game, but the place to start is with a hay test.

Testing the hay you are feeding is well worth the price of sample analysis. Collecting a sample is not complicated and typically, results are available Continue reading

How do Finishing Diet Combinations Affect Lamb Performance and Tissue Growth?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

For those shepherds in the state of Ohio that retain their lambs and finish to a market weight, a high concentrate finishing diet is commonly used. High concentrate diets are favored by producers as these types of diets allow producers to raise their lambs indoors away from predators, at a low cost when grain prices are low, and allow their lambs to reach a market ready weight at an earlier time point when compared to forage fed lambs. However, in today’s market, the production of grass-fed meat products receives a premium. Therefore, in order to capitalize on these premiums, some producers may choose to produce grass fed or pasture raised lamb.

When switching to alternative backgrounding and finishing diets, it is important to understand Continue reading

We’re Pricing Hay all Wrong

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously featured in Hay & Forage Grower: December 12, 2017)

(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)

“We need to think about alfalfa as a package of nutrients,” said Bill Weiss, Ohio State University Extension dairy nutritionist. “As such, the value of that alfalfa (or any forage) should reflect the value of the nutrients provided.”

Perhaps most buyers and sellers of hay already think this is being done, but Weiss takes it to another level. He shared his thoughts on valuing hay at the Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium’s Hay Quality Workshop held in Reno, Nev. Continue reading

New Study: Don’t Graze Fescue to the Ground

Lauren Peterson, Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern
(Previously featured in Hay & Forage Grower: December 5, 2017)

The verdict is in. Grazing toxic fescue to the ground is dangerous to pastured livestock. Findings released by the University of Missouri indicate that the highest levels of toxic alkaloids are held in the bottom 2 inches of infected grass.

Sarah Kenyon, an MU extension agronomist based in West Plains, Mo., documented these findings in her Ph.D. dissertation.

Kentucky 31 fescue, the most-used grass in Continue reading

Grazing Wind Damaged Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Southeast Regional Director

Although this information has been posted in the past, as harvest has come and gone, this opportunity may serve as a viable option for those looking for a cheap feed source to graze the mature ewe flock on. This strategy allows farmers to optimize on losses associated with harvest as well as serve as a means to save on winter feedings.

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading

What Finishing Diet Should I Feed my Lambs?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Do lambs perform and hang better carcasses when grazed on grasses, legumes, or fed an all concentrate diet?

Before to asking these questions, producers must first determine the goal of their operation. Resources such as land, labor, time, and money all play a critical role in the daily management of an operation. In today’s society, there are two types of consumers. Those that want access to quality protein sources at low prices, and those that are willing to pay a premium for specialty products (i.e. grass-fed lamb). When grain prices are low, it may be more economical for producers to finish lambs on grain. However, in order to reach a premium through specialty markets, producers may choose to finish their lambs on pasture. Regardless of which finishing strategy is chosen, producers need to understand both Continue reading

Don’t Guess, Forage Test!

Al Gahler, OSU Extension Educator, Sandusky County
(originally published in the Ohio Cattleman, late fall 2017 issue)

Regardless of livestock species, it is important to test your forages. When in doubt, test them out!

Across most of Ohio, 2017 has been a challenging crop year, especially for those in the hay production business. In 2016, while most producers did not have significant yields, quality was tremendous due to the dry weather which allowed for highly manageable cutting intervals and easy dry down. Since the end of June, however, 2017 has been just the opposite, with mother nature forcing many bales to be made at higher than optimal moisture levels, and cutting intervals measured in months rather than days.

With adequate moisture throughout most of the state for much of the summer, this equates to substantial yields, which in turn for the beef producer, means hay is readily available at reasonable prices. However, for the astute cattleman that either makes his/her own hay or knows the nature of the business, this also means high quality hay may just be the proverbial needle in the haystack, and for the most part, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.

While there are many options to manage the situation, including Continue reading

Winter Feeding Systems, Which is the Best for You?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The effects of winter feeding systems in gestating sheep on ewe and lamb pre-weaning performance.

As the breeding season comes to an end and winter approaches, it is important to consider how pregnant ewes will be managed as lambing season approaches.

There are several options available to producers for winter feeding strategies such as stockpiling forages on pasture, stored hay, grains, and recently the use of byproducts. Winter feeding can be a challenge as providing enough energy to meet the maintenance requirement of the gestating ewe and growth of the fetus becomes difficult.

Image Source: University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Department of Animal Sciences

In order to determine the effects of Continue reading

Fall and Winter Grazing Strategies

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Southeast Regional Director

In Ohio it is possible to graze year round. Of course grazing in winter does take planning. Summer is the best time to plan for fall and winter grazing. Why? Because many of our options have tasks associated with them in summer. By planning ahead it is possible in Ohio to have adequate quality, grazable forage for most of the winter. Depending on the class of livestock and their stage of production it is possible to need to feed for weeks in winter as opposed to months.

The cheapest option for fall grazing is Continue reading

How Does Harvest Weight and Diet Affect Carcass Characteristics?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

The most common method for finishing lambs in the United States is the use of a high concentrate diet. Although high concentrate diets allow for lambs to be finished at a younger age, one down fall of this feeding strategy is that lambs may to accumulate an excessive amount of carcass fat. An alternative method to finish lambs would be the use of pasture. Forage fed lambs develop less carcass fat, but require a longer period of time to finish and are harvested at an older age when compared to concentrate fed lambs. In order to determine which feeding strategy will yield the greatest amount of marketable product, a comparison of light and heavy weight lambs on two different diets has been summarized.

In order to make this comparison, lambs were harvested Continue reading

What Benefits are Gained by Processing Grain Fed to Sheep?

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

How does corn processing and fiber source affect feedlot lamb performance, diet digestibility, nitrogen metabolism?

(Image source: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)

Behaviorally, sheep and cattle are very different, especially in the way they eat. Sheep are more selective in their eating pattern and spend more time physically chewing and breaking down their feed than cattle do.

Regardless of the animal we are feeding, it is common practice in the livestock feed industry to process the grains fed to our animals. An issue with feeding processed grain is that due to an increase in surface area, the starches in grain become more readily available for the animal to digest. As a result, an increase in digestion may lead to metabolic issues such as acidosis in our ruminant species.

Therefore, a question of interest that arises is can sheep be fed unprocessed grains without Continue reading

The Future of Finishing Lambs

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Can the implementation of growth promotants or forage grazed finishing diets increase lean muscle gain in lambs without increasing carcass fat?

Marketing lambs at a high lean to fat carcass ratio is important in producing consistent and quality retail lamb products.

Lambs fed high concentrate diets finish at a younger age when compared to forage fed lambs. However, lambs fed high concentrate diets accumulate more carcass fat than lambs on grazed forage diets. The use of either growth promotants or forage finishing diets may provide producers with Continue reading

Grazing Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Morrow County

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, Continue reading

Spring Pasture Management

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Educator, Monroe County

The time of year is quickly approaching when keeping pasture plants in a vegetative state is probably the hardest for forage producers. Managing pasture growth early in the growing season is important to maintain high quality and high quantity forage production throughout the spring, summer and fall. A “spring flush” occurs Continue reading

Management Considerations to Lower Lamb Mortalities

Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

There are many factors that affect lamb survival. Serious shepherds should consult the Sheep Production Handbook, produced by the American Sheep Industry Association (www.sheepusa.org), for a more complete discussion of the various conditions and infectious diseases which impact lamb survival. However, if a pregnancy is carried to term, most losses occur Continue reading

Fall Grazing Management and Plant Health

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

The experienced grazier knows that how grass pastures are managed in the fall of the year determines what they have to manage in the spring of the year. While we tend to think of fall as bringing an end to pasture growth, it turns out that this is a critical time for the grass plant.

In fact, for our perennial grass plants, fall is not so much an end as it is a beginning, or at least laying a foundation for a beginning. Although seed production is one way Continue reading

More Tips for a Successful Fall Grazing Plan

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Knox County

Fall is an excellent time to complete several pasture related tasks. There are activities a livestock producer should be doing to help the pastures survive winter and remain productive next year.

The first and most important activity is good grazing management. Specifically, keep animals from overgrazing. Overgrazing in the fall could ruin next years forage production. It is more critical now than any other time of the year. Overgrazing is not caused by having too many animals in a field. It occurs Continue reading

Grazing Wind Damaged Corn Residue

Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Educator, Morrow County

To survive the current feed economy livestock producers need to graze their livestock as long as they can.  Every day livestock are meeting their nutritional needs through grazing they are being fed as economically as possible.  Typically cattle producers utilize corn residue as a feed source but, in Ohio, sheep producers need to consider grazing Continue reading

Sudangrass, Could it Work for You?

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Athens County

Raising sheep within a pasture based production system presents the manager with two challenges; internal parasite control and summer slump production of cool season pastures.  The use of a warm season annual like sudangrass may offer the pasture based sheep producer a parasite control option while at the same time filling in the forage production slump demonstrated by cool season pastures during the hot summer months.  In this article, I’ll draw on some of the results and lessons learned using sudangrass during the summer of 2007 on the Curt Cline farm in Athens County. Continue reading